TAMPA, Fla. – The Rangers feared that they might be skating into a perfect storm on Thursday night against the Lightning at Amalie Arena.
Four consecutive goals by Tampa Bay less than seven minutes into the game proved the visitors were right to be concerned. The Lightning knocked out Alexandar Georgiev and went on to a 9-3 thumping that earned the Rangers a point for prescience, but nothing in the standings.
Chris Kreider and coach David Quinn both called the loss “embarrassing.”
Said Quinn: “We were overwhelmed from the start and all the way to the finish.”
The Lightning were looking for payback after a 4-1 loss at the Garden on Oct. 29 that captain Steven Stamkos called “one of the more disappointing games, I think, for our group.”
Plus, Tampa Bay was playing its first game at home since Oct. 26. The Lightning went from the Garden to Sweden and beat the Sabres in a pair of showcase games that seemed to get this talented team back on track.
“We’re itching to play now,” Stamkos said before the game.
The Rangers helped the Lightning scratch that itch.
The Rangers had gone 5-1-1 in their last seven games – a run that began with that win over Tampa Bay.
But Tampa Bay’s Luke Schenn scored 2:39 into the game with a shot from the right point. It was the defenseman’s first goal since March 31, 2018.
The early onslaught really got underway after the Rangers gave the Lightning a 5-on-3 at 14:24. Brendan Lemieux was called for cross-checking. Play continued, and Tony DeAngelo was called for slashing after the whistle.
It took the Lightning five seconds to make it 2-0 when Alex Killorn deflected a Nikita Kucherov shot past Georgiev.
It was still 5-on-4 for Tampa Bay when Kucherov made it 3-0 with a wrister at 13:40. Just 22 seconds later, Ondrej Palat beat Georgiev with another wrister.
The Lightning had three goals in 61 seconds and a 4-0 lead. Georgiev was replaced by Henrik Lundqvist after allowing four goals on eight shots.
“We have shown this tendency in the short season so far -- when things don’t go well, we don’t make them better,” Quinn said. “I don’t know whether it’s our youth or immaturity or whatnot. Unfortunately, in the short season we’ve had we haven’t done a great job of when things aren’t going great, stopping it and making it better.”
Tampa Bay got one more shot in before Micheal Haley took the Rangers’ first shot on goal 9:01 into the game. Haley was playing because 18-year-old Kaapo Kakko was scratched after pregame warmups with the flu. Kakko scored two goals in the Rangers’ 3-2 victory against Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
The Rangers finally got on the board when Kreider beat Andrei Vasilevskiy at 5:27 for his fifth goal of the season. But any thought of a comeback was snuffed out when Tampa Bay scored four more times against Lundqvist in the second period and improved to 4-for-4 on the power play.
“Unfortunately, one of our downfalls this season has been our bad’s been really bad,” Ryan Strome said. “I think we saw that tonight.”
The game degenerated into a slugfest late in the second period when Lemieux fought former Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh and Haley and Schenn went at it as well. Things got worse for the Rangers when defenseman Jacob Trouba left in the second period with an upper-body injury. Quinn said he is possible to play Saturday at Florida.
In the third, Georgiev returned to replace Lundqvist. Filip Chytil scored twice in the period to give him six goals in eight games.
The Lightning tied its franchise record for goals and for power-play goals when Yanni Gourde scored with 7:31 left. Kucherov led Tampa with a goal and three assists, and Killorn had two goals and an assist. Former Ranger Kevin Shattenkirk had a goal and assist.
The Rangers will conclude this two-game trip that Quinn called “a true test” on Saturday night against the Florida Panthers. One day to get over the worst loss of the season.
“It’s hard not to have that one stick with you a little bit,” Kreider said. “Obviously, it’s very embarrassing.”